What Is a Lone Star Tick?

Christina Edwards

A lone star tick is a type of tick that is known for a white star shape on the female's back. It is typically found in outdoor areas of the United States, from the east coast to the state of Texas. A bite from this tick can be very irritating, and it can lead to more serious infections. Carefully removing a lone star tick is important, and this is usually done with tweezers.

Garlic can be used to prevent tick bites.
Garlic can be used to prevent tick bites.

The body of a lone star tick is usually brown. It is easily identified by the bright white or silver star shaped mark on the back of the female. Male lone star ticks also have white markings, but these markings are typically streaks.

Muscle aches may develop as a result of a lone star tick bite.
Muscle aches may develop as a result of a lone star tick bite.

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Male and female lone star ticks both have round or tear-shaped bodies. They also have eight legs. Mouthparts that are used to feed on an animal's blood can also be seen sticking out of the front of the body.

A lone star tick should be carefully removed with a pair of tweezers.
A lone star tick should be carefully removed with a pair of tweezers.

Like many other types of ticks, the lone star tick is very small. Unless it is engorged with blood, this type of tick is very difficult to see with the naked eye. Typically, a female tick is larger than the male, and she will around 0.25 inch (6.5 millimeters) long. After she has fed on the blood of an animal, however, her body can expand to roughly a 0.5 inch (13 millimeters).

A lone star tick bite may cause fever.
A lone star tick bite may cause fever.

The lone star tick can often be found in wooded areas and in underbrush. This tick species can sometimes be found as far north as the state of Maine in the United States. They can also be found throughout the eastern and central parts of the country, all the way to Texas.

Depending on their sex and type, ticks can expand to different sizes -- as big as a grape or as small as an apple seed -- when feeding on blood.
Depending on their sex and type, ticks can expand to different sizes -- as big as a grape or as small as an apple seed -- when feeding on blood.

Warm-blooded animals are the primary targets of the lone star tick. They will attach themselves to birds and mammals, including humans, as they pass by. After the tick is on an animal, it will sink its barbed mouthparts into the animal's skin. It will then secrete saliva and begin to suck the host's blood. After a lone star tick has become completely engorged with blood, it will drop off the host, and females will then lay thousands of eggs.

Ticks can spread dangerous diseases and infections to people and animals.
Ticks can spread dangerous diseases and infections to people and animals.

A lone star tick bite can leave a red welt that will usually itch afterward. Scientists have discovered, however, that lone star ticks do not usually infect their hosts with lyme disease. They can infect hosts with a similar, yet less serious, infection known as southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Like lyme disease, this infection can cause headaches, fevers, rashes, and muscle aches. It will usually go away on its own, though.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, on the other hand, is a more serious illness that can be spread by the lone star tick. Symptoms of this condition often include a fever and headaches, along with a splotchy rash around the ankles and wrists. In some cases, this infection can be fatal if not treated right away.

Lone star ticks are found outdoors from the east coast as far north as Maine to Texas.
Lone star ticks are found outdoors from the east coast as far north as Maine to Texas.

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Discussion Comments

Animandel

@Feryll - Yes, the lone star tick is causing problems with the meat people eat. The allergic reactions people are having continue to happen and thousands of people have been affected. What makes this condition particularly dangerous is that the allergic reaction doesn't always occur immediately or soon after a person eats the tainted meat.

I have heard about several cases where someone spends the day at a barbecue enjoying a meal with friends and family. The person eats and has a good time for the entire day. Then at some point during the night he goes into shock and is literally fighting for his life. At this point, most people have no idea what is happening and what might be causing the attack.

Lone star ticks can be so small that I have no idea how it would be possible to make sure that animals raised outside do not come in contact with them.

Feryll

The lone star tick was in the news some time back because it was believed to be causing people to have allergic reactions to meat. As I understand it, the saliva the ticks release when they bite a cow or another type of animal was getting into the meat supply that we eat and causing serious allergic reactions for some people.

In some cases people would get hives and rashes and get ill, but not to the point where they were about to die. However, in some cases anaphylaxis developed, and this can easily lead to death.

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